There is a manifest aura of destiny surrounding the new Fox TV hip-hop drama series Star.
The network clearly believes the show is ticketed for greatness. It springs from the imagination of executive producer Lee Daniels, who gave Fox the most buzzed-about TV series in years, Empire. It also features household-name celebrities in Queen Latifah, Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order), Naomi Campbell, and Lenny Kravitz.
The tagline for the program, which revolves around three young women struggling to rise from obscurity to girl-group glory, reinforces the notion: “Star: Music. Sacrifice. Destiny.”
And then, of course, there’s Ryan. Ryan Destiny.
A striking, moon-eyed young singer-composer-dancer-actress from Detroit’s west side, Destiny — her real middle name — has almost unexpectedly found herself co-starring on the heavily hyped and intensely scrutinized new series. She plays Alexandra Crane, a snobbish songwriter who agrees to partner with two down-and-out half sisters (Brittany O’Grady and fellow Michigan native Jude Demorest) to seek her hip-hop fortunes in Atlanta — against the wishes of her rock-superstar father, played by Kravitz.
“I was kind of nervous and not sure if I even wanted to audition for it,” admits Destiny, 21. That’s because (a) she already had landed a second record deal and was working on her own music at the time, and (b) she had been part of a real-life girl group, Love Dollhouse, since her days in middle school.
With a background like that, it would appear that a role on Star was to be her … well, you know.
Destiny says she feared the writers and producers would try to sensationalize or overdramatize the girl-group lifestyle she knew. As she received callback after callback for the role, those fears subsided. “They invited me into the writers’ room and I told them about my experiences with an actual girl group,” she says. “So, you know, there are a lot of realistic things that happen on the show.”
What’s not as realistic, she maintains, is any resemblance between Destiny and the condescending character she plays. “We’re actually very, very different, it’s crazy,” she says. “I find myself having to use my imagination with her a lot, because she comes from a very privileged background, she’s rich, she’s traveled the world, and I’m from Detroit.
“One of the things I think we do have in common is our ambition,” she says. “She is very much a go-getter, she loves music obviously, and she loves fashion, which is a huge part of me.”
Destiny’s hope for a musical career was obvious in childhood, says her mother and manager, Dawn Irons. “I remember her having friends at like 12 years old who would come over to play and want to go outside.” Irons says. “Ryan would say, ‘No! We have to rehearse!’ What kind of 12-year-old doesn’t want to go outside and play? She was that serious.”
Destiny has the music in her: Her father, Deron Irons, was one-half of a ‘90s R&B duo called Guesss. Growing up on Joy Road near Rouge Park, she attended middle school and high school in West Bloomfield, where Love Dollhouse (which scored a signature hit with “Can I” on Russell Simmons’ All Def label) was formed.
“I vividly remember the song she wrote for our Talent Day,” her high school vocal teacher Sheryl Hauk says. “I have videos of her with her two little friends singing when they were freshmen. I saw her on TV and I got a bit emotional.”
Destiny landed a role in the short-lived, 2013 made-in-Detroit cable drama Low Winter Sun, where she caught the eye of Daniels’ sister and casting director, Leah Daniels-Butler.
Daniels-Butler gave her a part on Empire but she had to relinquish the role due to recording contract restrictions. “She was devastated,” Irons says. “This time Fox worked it out.”
Destiny subsequently landed the title role in the 2015 film A Girl Like Grace, opposite Raven Symoné, but Star is undeniably her career breakthrough.
And it comes with the added allure of playing Kravitz’s daughter. “Lenny is amazing,” she raves. “He’s one of the coolest, most genuine rock stars I’ve ever met. It’s all just really dope and awesome.”